As the Tories talk about using scab agency workers to cover for rail strikers, there’s already terrifying evidence of how this risks catastrophic crashes.
On the first strike day, Tuesday, stand-in staff sent multiple trains in the wrong direction. Others told trains to leave stations when signals were on red. These could have caused deaths. The summary above shows trains wrongly routed, delays due to signaller error and safe system of working issues. These are all from the strike day on 21 June.
An RMT union member told Socialist Worker, “The government is desperate to prove the strikes aren’t really effective. That sees Network Rail and the train operating companies pushed to get as many services running as possible. It’s unsafe and it’s reckless when you have people who aren’t fully ready for the job in charge of thousands of passengers’ lives.”
The TSSA union said, “Trains being wrong routed can cause serious safety incidents if trains are sent onto unfit rails. The union also had reports of line blockages where signal boxes had been left closed and safety warning signals not engaged to alert train drivers.”
There were reports of managers trying to dispatch a train against a red signal. That led to the managers reportedly tested for alcohol and drugs as a result.
The RMT member said, “These sort of incidents are very rare. There is a real fuss when they happen, and quite right too. There’s a big effort to work out the cause and to learn from that. Well, here the cause is easy to see. It’s the wrong staff in critical places. I would be very concerned if you had agency people coming in to do these jobs.”
Chillingly, when unveiling its scab worker proposals, the Tory government said, “Skilled temporary workers would be able to fill vacant positions such as train dispatchers”. It acknowledged they “perform vital tasks such as giving train drivers the signal they are safe to proceed and making sure train doors aren’t obstructed”.
“During this week’s strikes, that role has had to be carried out by train managers,” it said. “They could have been better used in more safety critical roles, such as guards.”
It’s a recipe for unsafe working. The rail workers are rightly fighting for their own pay and jobs. But they are also confronting a Tory government and a management that will take risks to break a strike.
Birmingham: 10am New Street station
Brighton: 3pm railway station
Bristol: 12 noon, outside Knights Templar pub near Temple Meads station
Cardiff: 12 noon Central station
Coventry: 11.30am Coventry station
Glasgow: 10am Buchanan Steps
Hastings: 12 noon, Hastings station
Huddersfield: 9am Huddersfield station
Ipswich: 10am at the station
Liverpool: 12 noon, Lime Street station main steps
London: King’s Cross station 2pm
Manchester: 2.30pm, Cathedral Gardens
Nottingham: 12 noon, Station St
Norwich: 10am, at the station
Portsmouth: 10am Portsmouth Harbour station
Sheffield: 11am, railway station
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